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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Accounting disposition

A set of roommates often find need for a system to keep accounts of their common expenses*. That much is no news. What, however, I’ve found interesting in my journey across different sets is that manners of doing that, and how much it relates to their mental disposition.

At MIT, a hard core technocrat institution, me and my roommates had developed a cross-platform programming language based tool residing on intranet which would read input from text files or command line and produce outputs on text file or screen. Any of us could use that independently.

At, Los Angeles, where my roommates were of eclectic background, a simple Excel based model would serve the purpose. On the other hand, my brother tells me that they — bunch of software and hardware engineers — use an web-based utility which supports multiple login to same account to collaborate their expenses online.

In my dormitory at IIM, partially because of recently undergone course of Excel and VBA, I introduced an Excel based binary matrix system, which would let one person collate and distribute expenses in transparent manner.

My current roommates, most from IIMs, most from engineering background, however, use a simple pen on paper system to keep account, largely driven by one economist’s resistance to move to more automated and transparent versions such as Google Docs.

It is surprising that, while in India student hardly ever choose their career because of real disposition to any particular field, their temperament is irreversibly altered after having gone through years of study in their field.

*For those unfamiliar with this: input of system is collection of expenses distributable across roommates and output is netted required transfer amount. For example, if A paid Rs.10 for supplies of common use between A and B but not C, then system should tell net transfer of Rs.5 from B to A.

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